How to clean painted walls – 6 ways to remove grease, stains and dirt

How to clean painted walls: Remove greasy fingerprints, stains, dust and grime from flat emulsion painted, matt or gloss walls with these expert tips

Use our guide to find out how to clean painted walls: here, a cleaning bucket is at the ready
(Image credit: Getty)

Knowing how to clean painted walls won't be a top house-cleaning priority. However, painted walls do need cleaning fairly regularly to ensure they stay looking bright and decorative rather than dismal.

At the very best, walls gather dust and grime. At the very worst, it's likely they'll be smeared with greasy finger prints, knocks and scuffs and possibly even food. Cleaning flat painted walls needs to be done cautiously. The last thing you want to do is to remove the finish. Read the tips* below to find out how.

How often should you clean your walls

Cleaning guru Melissa Maker of Clean My Space suggests, 'If you're going to clean your walls, you should maybe clean them once or twice a year, thoroughly during spring cleaning. Or, if you're preparing to paint your walls, that's the other time you want to clean them thoroughly.  Otherwise you're going to be focusing on spot cleaning.'

Maker notes, 'Prior to any form of wall cleaning you're doing, you want to test what you're using in an inconspicuous area. That's important because some paints can't handle being cleaned and will leave a permanent wet mark on the wall.'

How to clean painted walls

Before you start, ensure the tools you're using, from sponges to cloths to dust mops won't scratch the paintwork. Soft sponges/mops and microfibre cloths are what's needed. 

1. Dust your walls

Dust off any excess dirt before starting to clean painted walls, otherwise you will just spread the grime. You can do this using a lint-free cloth for those areas you can reach, and a soft broom with a rag over its bristles or, better still, a dust mop (we rate the e-cloth deep clean mop) for any high areas. If there are no stains on your walls then just dusting may be enough.

2. Wash the walls with a gentle detergent 

In most cases, all you need for this is warm, soapy water. Create a cleaning solution in a bucket using water and your mildest cleaning detergent – we like the Ecozone Sensitive washing up liquid. Use your softest sponge to apply the solution to your walls. Don’t over soak the sponge. If you do, wring it out properly before cleaning as dripping can potentially leave water stains on your walls. Leave for five to 10 minutes. 

Have a second bowl or bucket of clean water to hand so you can rinse off the soapy solution about five to 10 minutes after applying. This simple process should be enough to clean most painted walls.

You can also use a sponge mop to do this which will give you better reach. Maker recommends saturating the mop, then squeezing the excess water out, working from left to right with your mop and in a W shape. Then dry the walls by putting a microfibre cloth onto a flat headed mop and working in the same motions.

3. Clean painted wall stains with vinegar

Need something a little stronger? White vinegar, our old cleaning favorite, is up to the task of cleaning off any stubborn stains or particularly grimy walls.

Simply mix a cup of white vinegar with a bucket full of warm water and use your soft sponge to tackle any stains. No need to rinse off after.

4. Use a mild degreaser for painted kitchen walls

Obviously, painted kitchen walls can get a little greasy. On top of your washing techniques above, an additional wipe down with a gentle degreaser should do the trick. Just follow the product instructions to avoid any streak marks, and don't forget that harsh chemicals should be avoided. Our advice? If in doubt, stick to white vinegar.

5. Spot clean painted walls with baking soda + water

Got a few stains that just won’t budge? Baking soda can come to your rescue. Spot clean your walls using a mixture of water and bicarbonate of soda/baking soda on a soft cloth or towel.

A half cup of it in a bucket of warm water should do it. Any crayon or pen marks should come straight off with this nifty little blend. Again, be sure to test out on a hidden area before applying it to a visible part of the wall.

6. Or spot clean with baby wipes

Baby wipes, make up removers... all of these are good for removing the odd dirty spot from your walls. Choose eco-friendly ones and don't flush them down the toilet to be environmentally friendly.

What not to clean flat painted walls with

If you’re heading to your cleaning cupboard to find the right products to clean painted walls with, step away from anything containing alcohol or harsh chemicals. These ingredients can break down your paint surfaces and leave your walls in more of a mess than when you first started.

If you’re unsure about even the mildest detergent, test it out first. Find an inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn’t contain any ingredients that will affect the paintwork.

*Tips thanks to Airtasker.

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